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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Confident


I promised to share with you my dreams for 2017, but before I do, I want to fill you in on how I got to where I am. 

As some of you know, this past year has been a heavy one for me, the darkest I've yet experienced. While many things contributed to the depth of this difficult time, one of the most prominent and persistent struggles I faced was the realization I had lost my ability to dream. How I reached this point is a story of its own, but being in this place felt completely disorienting for me. I couldn't think of the future I wanted because I had no idea how to imagine it.

I went to school to teach at the college level, and currently I am an adjunct, teaching writing to first-year college students. I enjoy teaching, but the adjunct life is not one of abundance or permanence; this isn't a long-term job. But after writing a dissertation-length thesis, I felt weighed down by the thought of pursuing a doctoral degree, and I didn't love the idea that I would have to select an even narrower focus of study. For a long time the idea of switching careers lingered in the back of my mind, but I had spent so much time and energy (and money) studying to teach that the idea of leaving this behind felt like I was giving up or turning my back on a good thing: a service career with direct impact on students, true life-altering work.

In an effort to simply entertain ideas and possibilities for the future, I thought about what I enjoy doing most - what makes me feel most me, what I find myself wanting to research - and for me that's creating. It draws on my strengths - it's project-oriented, it allows me to continually learn and perfect new skills, and it allows me to do new things every day. For these reasons I began to more seriously consider the idea that I would thrive doing more creative work, and I decided to experiment with new media to perhaps grow my Etsy shop.

In the spring of last year I made my first needle-felted mobile for my nephew, and the next month I made another for my nieces. And I kept going from there, teaching myself as I went, finding inspiration around me. I focused my Instagram feed on capturing beauty in everyday details, which helped me foster a sense of gratitude. Slowly, my energy grew, and from these acts of creativity light emerged. I came to recognize that I felt ignited when I made things. I felt almost juvenile at first, like the world became simpler and brighter, in contrast to the world in my head and on the news. But I found that in creating I could celebrate goodness and focus on the many ways this world is beautiful and inspiring and hopeful.


But I also had doubts: Is making mobiles or necklaces or macrame really making a positive impact? Is it simply contributing to capitalism and over-consumption? Am I really changing the world in any tangible way? Is this work selfish or flighty?

Through prayer, counseling, divine moments, and invaluable support from friends and family, what came to me in response to these doubts was this verse: "I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living," Psalm 27:13.

The entirety of Psalm 27 speaks to me, but these final words in particular helped me to recognize that creativity is not superfluous; it is holy. I create out of myself for God and others, and by some divine mystery, it helps me to see more clearly. Making things helps remind me (and hopefully others in the process) of the ultimate Creator's goodness, something I allow myself to lose sight of often. So while this life-altering work looks different from teaching students in a classroom, it is life-altering work nonetheless, and it's important work, if only for my own soul (though from my journey thus far, I already see this extends far beyond myself).


So this year I am committing to growing my creative work (including writing) and teaching just a little bit less so that I can do that. I still don't completely know what the path ahead looks like, and I can't say that my depression won't reappear or that I no longer feel anxious when I think about how uncertain or unstable the future seems. But I have been in darkness, and God has given me light and courage to move forward. So I will continue to focus on the goodness of God in this world. And in these times when each day's news makes my heart feel heavier, I'm holding this promise close. There is still goodness, and I remain committed to seeing and reflecting it.

-shelley

2 comments:

  1. I love them name of your blog! It makes me happy to know you are doing better...Your creativity just shines in all that you do.

    Your work mirrors the beauty of God's creation; He could have make one sort of flower and had it work for everything...but He gave us infinite beauty and diversity just for the joy of creating I think.

    Mirroring the attributes of God as seen in our everyday lives in this here and now life is a wonderful gift to us all!

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    Replies
    1. Kathy, I'm so sorry I missed this comment last week! I love your point about the flowers. We are given such diverse beauty, and I am so grateful. Thanks for your encouraging words.

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